Arctic strategy documents
Comment on the US Arctic region policy document
By Ingrid Lundestad, research fellow at the IFS
The United States announced its Arctic Region Policy on January 9, 2009. The directive supersedes a similar US document from 1994. Although signed by the outgoing Bush administration, the policy is considered to be largely bipartisan.
Compared with the 1990s, the document reflects an increased US interest in the Arctic region. US interests, as identified in the directive, are seen in light of recent developments, including: altered national policies on homeland security and defense; the effects of climate change and increased human activity in the region; the establishment and ongoing work of the Arctic Council; as well as an awareness of the region’s resources.
It is pointed out that the United States has "broad and fundamental national security interests in the Arctic region." Other issues than those directly pertaining to national and homeland security are also covered. These include boundary issues, scientific research, transportation, energy and environmental protection.
The directive states that the US is willing to operate independently in the Arctic, while at the same time underlining the need for international cooperation in the region. The work within the Arctic Council is seen as positive, though it is argued that the Council should sustain its current and limited mandate. The document states that the Senate should accede to the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea, "to protect and advance U.S. interests, including with respect to the Arctic." The new Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also supports ratification. She has confirmed that the Arctic is one area in which the Obama administration will highlight international cooperation in the implementation of US foreign policy.